Further Thoughts on Digital vs Paper

I’ve written about this topic before, but with every new hardcover the Paizo produces, it’s something I have to think about: do I buy the considerably cheaper PDF, or wait and buy the expensive physical version? Now that I have bought a couple of hardcovers in PDF format, I have a much better idea of what works for me.

Ultimate Equipment. Although it is nice to simply type in the piece of equipment you want into the search bar, this means that you need to know what the item is called. I’ve found for use at the table, the physical version of this book works better. It allows both the game master and the players to browse through a specific section and find a suitable item, rather than having to guess its name.

Bestiaries. Although these are nice to page through while preparing a session, I almost never use these during play. They are simply too big to have open in the space I have. Usually I’ll find the monster on the PRD and print out its stats so I can make notes on the page. Sometimes I’ll use the book to show players what the monster looks like, but more often than not, I’ll try and find the image online anyway and show it on my tablet. I would love to have PDFs of these books so I could just print off pages as I needed them, rather than trying to squeeze stat blocks from the PRD onto one page for printing. Having the PDFs would also allow me to extract the images to show to my players without fear of them seeing the statblocks.

Monster Codex & NPC Codex. Like the Bestiaries, these are too big to use at the table, and printing individual pages makes it easy to make notes. I’ve made more use of my PDF of the Monster Codex in the short time it’s been out than I have of my physical copy of the NPC Codex.

Advanced Class Guide. This is not a book that I would actually need to use at the table, so a physical copy would be preferable for reading and preparing. The huge size of the PDFs (even the ones split up by chapter) means that it is quite cumbersome to navigate and so I usually end up looking up the rules online instead. The same goes for the other rulebooks.

Player Companions and Campaign Setting softcover books. The PDFs of these are pretty small and open easily on a computer and a tablet. I don’t see myself going back to physical versions of these.

Modules and Adventure Paths. I’m definitely leaning towards PDFs for these, for similar reasons as the Bestiaries and Codices, as I can print out relevant bits and make use of the images to show my players without exposing them to spoilers on the page. I do love my Rise of the Runelords Anniversary Edition hardcover, but it’s seen a little bit of wear and tear over the last couple of years of play, which conflicts with my neat freak tendencies.

Pawns. I’m happy to pay for the physical version of these, as they are good quality and come in a sturdy box. I’ve tried making my own pawns in the past, but that was really more trouble than it was worth.

These are all just my personal preferences of course. Do you lean towards paper or digital for certain types of books, or do you stick with one or the other? Share your thoughts below.

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The Festering Maze of Sloth

JordimandusRise of the Runelords Campaign Journal. Session Date: 17 April 2015. Continued from previous session

After spending several weeks in Magnimar resting and creating new magical gear, all that was left was to resurrect Nanali. The only cleric capable of performing a true resurrection was the high priest of Abadar, who agreed to lower his fee in exchange for a position for one of his clerics in Jorgenfist – bringing banking, religion and civilisation to the Storval Plateau.

Nanali’s resurrection went well, though a faint smell of smoke seemed to follow the shaman even after the spell was complete. She claimed to have spoken to ‘the spirits’ in the time she was dead, and insisted the party return to Runeforge to destroy all its inhabitants. The heroes didn’t need much convincing, and so they returned to Runeforge and entered the wing of sloth.

This wing of Runeforge turned out to be a festering maze of sewer-like tunnels, with an almost-overwhelming stench filling the entire area. The heroes encountered several disgusting demons and other creatures inhabiting these filthy tunnels. During these encounters they discovered that Nanali had learned some fiery new spells as she destroyed enemies with righteous fury.

In the depths of the maze, the heroes found a morbidly obese wizard with a heart of slime and tentacles, apparently being kept alive by noxious vapours from several pipes. He was not alone either, and was aided by four vrocks. Jordimandus used powerful spells against the heroes, and even managed to blind Nu, but once they worked out that his life force was tied to the coloured liquid in the pipes, they were able to cripple him, forcing him to flee elsewhere in the wing. Unfortunately his demonic heart could no longer sustain him without sustenance from his lair, and he was dead before the heroes tracked him down.

Thoughts on the Pathfinder Monk

With Pathfinder Unchained on the way, I’m looking forward to seeing the new rules options and the improvements to some of the classes that are commonly considered problematic (particularly the rogue, monk and summoner). My only dilemma with regards to the new book is whether to go PDF or hardcover!

In the meantime, I thought I’d share some of my thoughts on the ‘normal’ monk. I’ve been running Rise of the Runelords at home for a couple of years now. The player characters are now 15th level and about to start the final chapter. The original party consisted of a sorcerer, a ranger, and a monk. The party currently also includes a ninja.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you might also know that this campaign is my first as a game master. No doubt I’ve made some mistakes along the way, but I’ve learnt a great deal about what works and what doesn’t in terms of running a Pathfinder game.

When we started the campaign, we built the player characters with ‘heroic’ ability scores – even the sorcerer had a base strength of 14. This made it quite easy for players to build very strong characters, which I felt was a good thing since there were only three players and they lacked a healer of any sort. As we played through the adventure path, the combination of only 3 PCs with item creation feats led to a high wealth, high magic party.

While this was not really a problem for the players since all three of them were equally powerful, it started to become problematic for me as GM because the encounters in the AP were too easy, despite the fact that they were written for a part of four. Around that time I started reading up about building challenging encounters and discovered that I wasn’t alone, and so I started modifying encounters so they would last more than one or two rounds.

What I found interesting in my reading was seeing all the complaints about the monk, when the main reason I had to modify encounters was because of the monk in the party. He had focused on Strength as his primary stat, meaning he rarely missed enemies, and as such, did a large amount of damage in any round that he was able to flurry. He did less damage per hit than the ranger with his greatsword, but generally their damage per round was comparable.

Then there is the monk’s armour. Even though he doesn’t actually wear armour, his high Wisdom score and decent Dexterity meant that he was all but unhittable, except by bosses and very lucky minions. At higher levels, the Scorpion Style feats allowed him to counterattack every time an attack missed him. Which, as I’ve mentioned, was often. Add in the monk’s insane speed and I had a monk closing the distance to enemies in a round or two and dispatching them in the following round when he could unleash a flurry.

I do think some of the monk’s abilities are kind of weird, like the ability to speak to animals, and I know the monk in my game has very good stats, allowing him to be really good at what he does – that is, pummelling things to death. It’s a running joke at our table that the monk is the master of overkill, as often he’ll only be able to unleash a flurry on an enemy who has already been beaten down by other party members, resulting in impressive negative hit point scores.

My point here is simply that with the right build and some good stats, the normal monk is not that bad. It may not suit everyone as is, but it suits what this player wants to do perfectly. I don’t like to ban options outright – the gunslinger is the only thing specifically banned at my table (love the idea, hate the gun mechanics). Instead I have used this as an opportunity to create all sorts of crazy and potentially deadly encounters.

If you have had positive experiences with often complained about classes like the monk, feel free to share in the comments!

Featured image: Pathfinder monk by TimKings-Lynne on DeviantArt

Fiery (NPC) Death

ThundercallerSession Date: Friday 27 March 2015. Continued from previous session

Having survived their encounter with the leader of the warriors of wrath, the heroes healed up and continued their exploration of the Halls of Wrath. They soon discovered a lab featuring numerous sinspawn and a vat of foul-smelling, twitching flesh. There were also about a dozen warriors of wrath in this lab, who were all too happy to have a break from their tedious work.

Although individually weak, the warriors of wrath had numbers on their side. They were tough enough to survive Ciaran’s first two fireballs, after which they reciprocated with their own. Radha and Cecil had no trouble dodging out of the way, but Ciaran and Nanali were not so lucky. Nanali was hit by 8 fireballs, which killed her instantly.

With their healer down. the heroes worked quickly to neutralise the threat before the warriors were able to throw more devastating spells at them. Ciaran eventually paralysed the last remaining warrior before disintegrating him at point-blank range.

With the warriors dispatched, the heroes returned to Athroxis’ chamber where the massive sihedron rune etched onto the ground, and finally figured out that it would absorb teleportation magic. They managed to open a portal to the mountain Rimeskull, in the centre of the circle of statues of the Runelords. From there they decided they had better return to Magnimar to resurrect Nanali – anything less would almost certainly cause a war with Nanali’s tribe.

The heroes also took the time to recover, upgrade their gear, and prepare to return to Runeforge and destroy its few remaining inhabitants. There were still three wings they had not yet investigated, but they were bound to contain evils to vanquish – and riches to claim for their cause.

The Halls of Wrath

highlady athroxisSession Date: 20 March 2015. Continued from previous session

After recovering from their encounter with the golem guarding the Halls of Wrath, and the statue of Karzoug, the heroes set about imbuing their weapons with the power of the Runeforge, creating dominant weapons that might be used against Karzoug.

Feeling prepared for whatever was waiting for them in the Halls of Wrath, the heroes ventured forward, ignoring the sense of unease they felt – the halls seemed too quiet. They stepped through one of the teleportation circles into a large hall, closed on one side by a wall of smoke. This wall turned out to be nothing but an illusion, but the enemy on the other side could see through it, meaning they were well-prepared for when the heroes finally stepped into the room containing a massive teleportation circle. This circle seemed to be the most likely way of escaping Runeforge, but it was well-guarded.

Highlady Athroxis was waiting for the heroes – it was the challenge she had been waiting for her entire life. She transformed into the guise of a fire giant and summoned a treachery demon to aid her. He in turn summoned two vrocks to face the heroes.

The fight was long and deadly, as Athroxis wielded both powerful spells and brutal melee attacks. Radha took a fatal blow from Athroxis’s flaming ranseur. Combined with the spores sprouting vines all over her body (thanks to the vrocks), Radha bled to death very quickly. Fortunately, Nanali had been watching the battle carefully, and dashed forward to cast breath of life on Radha before it was too late. By this time, Athroxis’s demonic minions had been dispatched, and Athroxis herself succumbed to the unrelenting attacks of Nu, Cecil and Ciaran – and Radha, before she fell.

All in all, the heroes were relieved to have survived facing the biggest challenge they had yet come across in Runeforge.

RotRL Campaign Journal: Golems are Scary

Pathfinder Campaign Journal. Session Date: Friday 21 February 2015. Continued from previous session.

Karzoug-golem1

After surviving their adventures in the Runeforge wing of pride and illusion, the heroes moved onto the halls of wrath – transmutation magic. They didn’t quite expect the magnificent marble entrance hall guarded by a massive iron golem wielding a huge bow which shot arrows of flame. The golem also happened to be standing on a platform 30 feet high, made of smooth – unclimbable – marble.

The golem’s location forced the Nu and Radha to move in close in order to damage the 12-foot-high statue. This opened them up to the golem’s devastating melee attacks, which had both the monk and the ninja seeing stars rather quickly. Fortunately, Radha was prepared for the golem’s tough exterior, and managed to deal a massive amount of damage with her adamantine kukri, bringing down the golem, but not before it set off the alarm which surely alerted the entire wing to their presence.

However, no follow up attacks came, and so the heroes investigated the room the golem had been guarding. They found a red circle and a blue one, carved with ancient runes which seemed to indicate that they were some sort of teleportation circles. Having read in Vraxeris’ journal that the halls of wrath contained a portal that allowed the user to exit Runeforge entirely, the heroes were hesitant to use the circles without knowing where they went.

Eventually they decided to send Ciaran through one of the circles, leaving his familiar Snappy behind to (hopefully) maintain contact with the others. Invisible, Ciaran stepped into the circle, arriving on what seemed to be another level of the halls of wrath. There, several warriors and monsters were waiting – Ciaran dispatched these with a few well-aimed fireballs. He then returned through the portal, remaining invisible to his friends and observing them.

The remaining heroes were unable to interpret Snappy’s communications with them, and assumed Ciaran had been lost through the portal. They decided to head back to the Runeforge pool and attempt to enchant their weapons before following Ciaran into the unknown. At least then they would have something that could help them stand against Karzoug.

Upon activating the magic of the Runeforge pool, however, the statue of Karzoug animated and taunted the heroes, claiming they would never reach his hidden city. The statue then attacked, very nearly making Karzoug’s taunt come true. It was only with the help of the magic of Nu’s newly-enchanted temple sword that they were able to destroy the statue – and some invisible help from Ciaran, who finally decided to reveal himself at the end of the battle.

The Shimmering Veils of Pride

VraxerisNext, the heroes decided to explore the wing of pride – illusion magic – in order to find a component to forge into a weapon to use against Runelord Karzoug. Unsurprisingly, the halls of pride were filled with floor to ceiling mirrors, and at their entrance was a very dangerous trap: two mirrors of opposition, which produced duplicates of the heroes each time they saw their reflection in these mirrors.

It was only after four copies of Nu and Cecil, and two copies of Nova, had appeared that Ciaran realised their only chance of survival was to destroy the mirrors and prevent any duplicates from appearing – the fight was already going poorly for Cecil and Nu as they struggled to defend themselves against their own impressive skills.

A well-aimed disintegrate destroyed the first mirror, taking with it the duplicates it had spawned. A fireball took care of the second mirror, saving the party from grim defeat at their own hands. The next room contained many more mirrors – fortunately none of these spawned any duplicates – and a magnificent illusory peacock in the centre of the room. There were also six identical men who attacked the heroes on sight.

After dealing with the strangely identical men, the heroes found a dead man in the next room who himself was identical to the men they had just slain. The magic of Runeforge made it seem like he had died only moments ago, when it could actually have been years – there was no way to tell. His diary did not mention dates, but it seemed he had succumbed to some sort of dimensia before he could clone a new body for himself.

Further rooms contained neatly stacked bodies – elderly versions of the dead man in the previous room. To add to the unsettling feeling of the place, one of the once impressive libraries had been torn apart, apparently in anger. The final room was perhaps the most dangerous and disturbing of all, for it contained six copies of the succubus that the heroes had defeated in the halls of lust. Though individually weaker than the real thing, six succubi proved difficult for the heroes to defeat – especially once one of them successfully dominated Cecil and ordered him to attack Ciaran.

Still, the demons proved no match for the remaining heroes, and the final one was forced to flee. With the succubi vanquished, Ciaran made good use of the confined space and created a resilient sphere around Nu, effectively blocking the way and trapping Cecil while Nanali cast a spell to break the charm spell that the succubus had cast on Cecil.